Why We Do What We Do (Part 4 of 4)

May 6, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
The Presenter’s Role as Facilitator

Part 1Part 2, Part 3

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin CommunicationThis is the fourth and final post focusing on Turpin’s core principles. In the first three I defined the Orderly Conversation, Default Approaches and what it means to be engaged in a genuine conversation. In this post I’ll talk about how delivering a presentation, regardless of its purpose or setting, requires the skills of a facilitator.

When we think of facilitation, most of us think of the discussions that take place in the training room, during problem-solving meetings, or brainstorming sessions. Facilitators in these situations are skilled at moving a group of people toward a specific goal. They help people understand new information, find solutions, and share insights. Their job is to (1) encourage the process to ensure a genuine conversation takes place and (2) control the conversation to keep it appropriately focused on the goal.

This isn’t easy, of course, because the first goal always competes with the second. When the conversation really gets going, the facilitator has to be astute enough to rein it in without stifling it altogether.

Facilitating Your Presentations

The same thing needs to happen during your presentations—even if you’re the person doing most of the talking. Your audience wants to feel they have the opportunity to participate, even if they choose not to take it. They also want to feel that you’re capable of managing the twists and turns of the conversation, even when they are the people pulling you off track.

Many presenters—especially those who are under the stress of nervousness, are new to their role, or feeling intimidated by the audience—are too controlling. Their focus on the orderly part of the process makes them appear uncomfortable, impatient, defensive, or domineering. They don’t trust the audience or the process enough to let the conversation breathe. Audiences sense this, of course, and pull away. Sometimes they simply shut down and wait for the presentation to be over. Sometimes their frustration leads to more open resistance.

The most successful presenters are those who understand that they can’t get the job done without the audience. They trust the group and the process to make a necessary, though not always easily managed, contribution. They know that without it, a genuine conversation never takes place.

So that wraps up my discussion of Turpin’s core principles. The common theme? By redefining business presentations as Orderly Conversations, the real-life challenges you face and the strategies you need to manage them come into sharper focus.

Part 1Part 2Part 3

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Why We Do What We Do (Part 3 of 4)

April 29, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
Engagement

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin CommunicationThis is the third in a series of four posts focusing on Turpin’s core principles. In the last entry I talked about how every presenter brings a Default Approach to the process and that understanding what it is focuses your improvement. In this post, I’ll focus on what it means to be engaged in an Orderly Conversation.

It seems that everyone is talking about engaging people these days. Businesses use social media to keep customers engaged. Managers want their employees to be fully engaged. Trainers want to engage learners. Each of these uses of the word have to do with how someone else (the customer, employee or learner) responds to something you do. It has to do with motivating them or maybe just keeping them interested.

We use the term to describe what happens when a two-way interaction begins. When presenters engage in conversation with their audience, they are not pouring information into passive listeners. They are not merely grabbing that person’s attention. An engaged presenter initiates a genuine connection with the audience. Both presenter and audience member share a moment in time, both equally engaged.

This level of engagement brings the audience into the conversation, of course, but it also affects how the presenter feels and thinks. Engaged presenters are able to think and speak spontaneously because they are reacting to the people they are speaking to, just as they do in everyday conversation. This, in turn, makes presenters feel confident and comfortable.

It’s for this reason that all presenters, especially nervous presenters, need to take command of the skills that help them engage. Once the conversation begins, the anxiety, self-consciousness, and second-guessing associated with nervousness melt away. You are able to stay focused and rein in the discomfort and distraction of nervousness.

So by focusing on engaging listeners in the conversation, we accomplish two things. First, we help presenters develop the skills they need to work through their nervousness. Second, we release presenters from the generic, prescriptive rules found in traditional training classes. Engaged presenters trust themselves to be confidently self-aware and in control.

Part 1Part 2, Part 4

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

eLearning with Personality

April 7, 2013 in Author, Find Your Focus Video, Greg Owen-Boger, Talent Development, Training, Video, Virtual

greg 200x300“I think your eLearning courses succeed because they have personality.”

This comment was part of a conversation I was having with an L&D peer at a conference recently. I was really happy to hear it. When we were putting our eLearning courses together, we thought a lot about how we were going to engage learners in the conversation. We wanted our instructors to seem spontaneous and genuine.

I disagree with what I’ve been hearing on social media about how ineffective talking head video is in eLearning. The problem isn’t the fact that we’re seeing a person on the screen. The problem is seeing someone who’s clearly uncomfortable.

So when we use talking heads in our video, we need to find a way to ensure the speaker’s personality comes through.

I’ve been making the rounds of the workplace learning & development conferences speaking on this very topic.

Here’s a link to my speaking schedule.

Turpin Communication has put together a few videos to help people learn to do this as well.

Make Your Videos Authentic
The other day I came across an article someone had posted on Facebook. It was about how small business owners should use video to market themselves. “Keep your video authentic” was the first of 5 recommendations the author made. Although the article is written to a different audience, the same thing applies to eLearning video.

So if you’re thinking about producing eLearning talking head video, think about the learners’ experience. No learner wants to sit through an online course with stilted, painful, inauthentic video. They want to get in, be engaged in an authentic way, learn what they need to learn, and get on with things. Let’s make sure we do that.

Need help for yourself or coaching for someone else? Watch this video.

Learn more about On-camera Coaching.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation” 

Virtual Presentations That Work

March 25, 2013 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Presentation, Talent Development, Training, Virtual

greg 200x300It’s one thing to be clear, concise, and in control of your message when you’re speaking to a group of people in a live conference room setting. It’s an entirely different thing to keep audience members attentive and engaged when presenting virtually.

It’s not just learning how to run the meeting software. That’s the easy part. The real issues are (1) getting people to want to participate and (2) communicating well using the technology so that what you say is actually heard and understood.

I led a webinar last week for CASRO, which is a professional organization serving the market research industry. In the session, we explore the skills and techniques it takes to communicate effectively in virtual settings no matter whether you’re conducting meetings, presentations, research results or video conferences.

Topics include:

  • Transferring face-to-face skills to the virtual environment
  • Engaging people you can’t see
  • Keeping people focused
  • Keeping things interesting
  • Developing visual aids for online delivery
  • Planning and executing interactions that people want to participate in
  • Using video conferencing tools
  • Pros and cons of muting attendee phones
  • Using tools such as polls, chat, hand raising and more
  • Using a host to manage the technology so that you can focus on content

What thoughts do you have about virtual delivery?

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Presentation Skills Training: REDEFINED. (Part 3 of 5)

February 20, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4Part 5

This is the third in a series of five blog posts focusing on the distinction between the academic approach to public speaking and the skill-building approach business presenters need. My goal with this series is to talk about why the application of Public Speaking 101 approaches in the corporate training room fails to meet the needs of business presenters.

This post will focus on what are traditionally called “delivery skills.” These are the physical and vocal skills you use to communicate in every face-to-face interaction. If you approach your presentation as a performance instead of a conversation (as I discussed in my last post), your focus will be on how these skills look and sound to your audience. The success of a performance of a speech involves, for example, establishing eye contact with your audience to appear trustworthy, pausing to emphasize your points, controlling gestures to appear professional, and bringing enthusiasm to your voice.

What’s missing with that approach is consideration of what these skills do for you, the presenter. Let’s look at eye contact and pausing. During our workshops we talk about these skills as engagement skills. When they are used well, they help presenters relax, focus, and bring their listeners into the conversation.

The use of these skills, in other words, is about much more than simply how they make you look and sound. They are essential for the conversation. Through their application you are able to keep your thoughts and focus in the here and now. If you’re only thinking about how these skills appear to others, it takes you out of the moment and turns your focus inward. This weakens your connection to listeners and turns the conversation into a performance.

For most people, after you’re engaged in the conversation, your other delivery skills take care of themselves. Gestures occur naturally and vocal enthusiasm is appropriate and genuine. So rather than thinking of these skills as the polish you apply to performance, think of them as the welcome result of being engaged in the conversation.

In the next post I’ll talk about the need to bring real-life presentations into training.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4Part 5

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Just Because You Said It Doesn’t Mean It Was Heard

February 13, 2013 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation, Training

greg 200x300“I swear I said that they’d see incremental sales growth,” said Angela as she sat down to review her video with me.

Angela was a participant in a recent Mastering Your Presentations workshop. Dale Ludwig was the lead instructor. I was the participants’ video coach. My job is to guide participants through video review, focusing on (a) what they’re doing well, (b) where they could improve, and (c) identifying skills and techniques that will work for them.

So, there was Angela (not her real name). She was confused and frustrated because her classmates claimed she hadn’t mentioned how her buyer would gain incremental sales growth if he would approve the promotion she was recommending. “That was the whole point of the presentation!” she said.

“Let’s watch the video and see,” I said. So I popped the video in and we watched.

About 20 seconds into her presentation, there it was. “See?” she said. “I knew I’d said it.”

So, if Angela had said the words why then hadn’t her classmates heard them?

The problem is that Angela wants to be perfect. She’s very concerned about looking silly and mentally monitors everything she says and does. She described it as “being in my head.” Unfortunately, this has led her to rehearse every presentation to find the “right” way to make a point.

This graphic shows a distressed presenter. Angela sees herself in the image. This presenter is thinking:

  • Did I say that correctly?disengaged-presenter
  • My voice sounds strange.
  • My hands feel heavy.
  • What’s on my next slide?

As I coached Angela, I helped her realize that merely getting the words out isn’t enough. She must say them to SOMEONE. She needs to look people in the eye (not over their heads as she’d been told), see their faces, look for their understanding, and react accordingly. This is the same thing that happens in everyday low-stakes conversations. But for Angela, the pressure of having to deliver a perfect presentation pulls her out of the moment and into her head.

On the other hand, this presenter has an outward focus. He’s:engaged_presenter

  • Speaking with his audience, not at them
  • In the moment
  • Seeing faces and responding
  • Self-aware
  • Connected with the individuals in the room
  • In control
  • Comfortable

In short, he is engaged. He knows instinctively what to do and say, just as he does in everyday low-stakes conversations.

“This all makes sense to me,” said Angela, “but how can I do it?”

“The answer lies in turning your focus outward, toward the individuals you’re speaking with,” I said. “Take a moment to breathe and survey the room. Look them in the eye. Make the connection. Look for their reaction. Remember, this has nothing to do with your performance and everything to do with their understanding.”

“I like that,” she said. “I’m going to write that down. It’s not about my performance. It’s about them.”

Luckily for Angela, the class wasn’t over and she had another opportunity to deliver her presentation later that day. And what a difference. She was terrific. She was engaged. She made her points clearly and conversationally. She wasn’t nervous.

The proof of her success came from one of her colleagues when she said, “I finally understood what you were trying to say. Your buyer would be nuts not to approve this promotion.”

Indeed.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication

How Can I Help a Nervous Presenter?

August 20, 2012 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Nervousness, Posts for Buyers, Preparation, Presentation

This article was originally published July 23, 2012 by Mondo Learning Solutions.

greg 200x300Managers often come to us and ask how they can help their team members get a handle on the nervousness they experience when presenting. This isn’t surprising, of course, since this type of nervousness is a real issue for a lot of people. We all experience it differently and to varying degrees, but the reality is that being nervous is no fun. And that’s true for speakers as well as for audience members having to suffer through someone else’s nervousness.

Unfortunately there is no quick fix that will work for everyone. Nervousness is triggered by different things. For some, it’s audience size. For others, it’s who’s in the audience. Level of knowledge of the topic often plays a role. Many people have a broken record playing in their heads repeating some well-meaning feedback they received but have taken the wrong way. (“You should be more energetic.” “Smile more, you look mad.” “Don’t turn your back.”) For others the repeating voice is a self-critical one. “You said that wrong.” “That’s not how you rehearsed it.” “Crap, you forgot to mention X.” “They don’t think you’re smart enough.”

Who could be in control with all those thoughts swimming around?

So, when it comes to helping your employees manage their nerves, it has to start with helping them quiet the voices in their heads, gain control of their thoughts, and settle into the conversation. During everyday interactions they aren’t nervous. They’re engaged, and they zig and zag following the natural unrehearsed path of the conversation. A similar organic process should happen in presentations too.

Presentations need to feel like conversations
Understanding that key concept – that presentations should feel like conversations – is the first step toward managing nerves. It takes away the pressure of having to be perfect, having to say something just right. It also turns the focus of the interaction outward, away from self and toward others. When this happens, the presenter sees faces, responds naturally and settles into the conversation.

Of course, the conversation is mostly being led by the presenter, who has (hopefully) spent some time thinking about the goals of the presentation and the organization of it. The course the conversation follows, though, is in direct response to the feedback received from the listeners. If you can help your employees understand that the audience is a necessary part of the conversation—not passive observers of it—they’ll be on the right track.

Fueling the brain
I like to tell workshop participants, “your brain is a good one, but it needs fuel to be smart.” The fuel comes from a pause and a breath. Pausing gives the brain the time and energy it needs to do its job. Again, we do this naturally in everyday conversation.

Expect some resistance
When you bring this up to your staff, you should expect a little resistance. There are three issues they may have. First, they will want to know how long a pause should be. Second, they’ll probably say that they feel foolish when they pause. Finally, they will worry about the audience’s perception of a pause, “They will think I’ve lost my place.”

Each of these questions stems from the false notion that a presentation is a performance. It’s important to remind your employees that the presentations they deliver are not performances, they’re conversations. During a conversation, there are no rules about how long a pause should be. They just need to occur naturally as part of the process. When they do, they won’t feel foolish. During the pause, an engaged presenter will simply use the time to breathe and think about what’s to come. Finally, pauses are seldom awkward for audience members because they, too, are engaged in the conversation. During a pause they’re digesting what was just said and getting ready to hear what’s next.

So, bottom line: How can you help a nervous presenter?

  1. Help them understand that presentations are conversations, not performances. There’s no “right way” to do or say anything.
  2. Remind them that they’re speaking with people not at them. This will focus their attention on the individuals in the audience and remind them to look for – and respond to – audience reactions.
  3. Remind them to pause and breathe.

Managing nervousness isn’t something that can be conquered overnight. It takes time, experience, and a shift in traditional thinking. But it can be done. Your job, as manager, is to gently nudge your team along step by step, reminding them of the concepts outlined here.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication

How can I keep my enthusiasm where it needs to be?

April 23, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Preparation, Sarah Stocker

There is no one-size-fits-all solution; different people need to do different things to increase their enthusiasm. Here are some things to consider.

Are you disengaged?
Presenters who are disengaged can appear stiff and uncomfortable. When you are engaged your natural communication skills and enthusiasm will emerge. For more on engagement, read Dale’s post, Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.

Is it a volume issue?
Speaking louder is often the easiest way to increase your enthusiasm. Boosting your volume requires you to put more energy into your voice and makes you sound more passionate about your topic. To start your presentation on the right path, simply focus on the person farthest away from you in the room and speak to them. Doing this will naturally bring your volume up to an appropriate level.

Do you appear more enthusiastic when you increase your movement a bit?
Purposeful movement can add energy to your presentation. For some people it gives them a positive way to release nervous energy (instead of fidgeting or pacing). For presenters who tend to be stiff, it can help them loosen up. Some examples of purposeful movement are moving toward the screen to point something out or moving toward a specific individual to connect with them.

The thing to remember, and this is something that’s true for everyone, is that presenting is hard work. If you’re not tired after a long presentation, you’re probably not working hard enough. A presenter asked me recently if she needed to fake it when she just wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic about her presentation. I said absolutely yes. You still have to look natural and be yourself, of course, but sometimes you have to pull your enthusiasm out of thin air.

by Sarah Stocker, Trainer and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin Communication

Presenter Stands on a Chair?

August 27, 2009 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs


Question:

One time my company brought in a guest speaker who stood on a chair for the entire presentation.  I suppose he thought that would make him more memorable, but all I remember is that he stood on a chair.  He’s become the joke at every conference since.  What do you think?

Answer:
If the presenter’s goal was to be remembered, he succeeded.  Just not in the way he hoped.  I assume that there was no practical reason for him to stand on the chair.  That is, he wasn’t doing it to be seen or heard better.  And he wasn’t delivering a presentation about the strength or durability of the chair he stood on.  So whatever the presenter’s purpose, it was lost on the audience, and the fact that he stood on the chair became so distracting that his message didn’t come across.

I think there are a few lessons to take away from this.

  1. Gimmicks don’t work.  Don’t assume that your audiences need or want you to use techniques that are far afield from your message.  Stick with your message and make it relevant to them.  Greg wrote an entry about this.
  2. Stay engaged.  If this presenter had been in tune with his audience, he would have realized that standing on the chair wasn’t working.
  3. Explain yourself.  Let’s say that there was a good reason to stand on the chair.  In this presenter’s situation, then, standing on the chair wasn’t his mistake.  Failing to explain why he was doing it was.  Don’t assume audiences will make connections you think are obvious.  Take the time to explain what you’re doing and reinforce it throughout the presentation.

Finally, if you’re considering doing something during your presentation that feels a little questionable, don’t do it.  Presentations are unpredictable enough all by themselves.  Don’t add to the risk.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Using PowerPoint Transitions

August 25, 2009 in Dale Ludwig, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Improving Your Visual Aids

Question:
I really like the way some presenters use PowerPoint to transition from one topic to the next.  They seem so smooth.  What can I do to be more like that?

Answer:
PowerPoint transitions can look very nice, but don’t assume they replace the work you have to do as you move from one section of your presentation to the next.  In fact, many well-planned PowerPoint transitions fail during delivery because presenters get too wrapped up in the process to remember how to use them.  As a result the transitions get in the way and annoy everyone.

Remember, a good transition connects what has been said to what’s coming up.  That does a couple things.  First, it reinforces the logical flow of your argument.  Second, and this is what a lot of presenters don’t think about, it also reinforces the structure of your presentation.  What’s the difference between the two?

The logical flow of your presentation has to do with how the ideas you’re presenting build on each other.  Obviously you didn’t organize the information you’re presenting randomly.  It’s in the order it’s in because it makes sense that way, or because it’s more persuasive that way.  Whatever the reason behind how the data flows, a good transition refers to it.  For example, “The next thing I’d like to talk about is how we reach the second quarter goals I’ve listed here.”  You don’t need a PowerPoint transition to communicate that idea.

Reinforcing the structure of your presentation is slightly different.  It’s like a chapter break in a book, or a number in an outline.  It lets listeners know where you are in the overall presentation.  This is important because it makes you sound organized and gives listeners a sense of how much longer your presentation will be (and let’s face it, that’s important).

The thing to do is to stay engaged with your listeners and do what you can to lead them through the presentation.  Always assume they’re a little distracted and need a little help connecting the dots.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication